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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
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The southern belle and The Bachelor


Accountability culture’s toll on the franchise

For a couple years now, my guilty pleasure has been watching “The Bachelor” or “The Bachelorette” every Monday night. Since becoming a part of “Bachelor Nation,” I came to love Chris Harrison, the host of the Bachelor franchise, who offers a sense of stability every week and acts as a father figure to the contestants. 

This changed recently when I was shocked by the series of events that ended with Harrison stepping down as host, at least temporarily.

Harrison’s resignation comes after an interview with the first Black Bachelorette, Rachel Lindsay, about the actions of current Bachelor contestant Rachael Kirkconnell. Pictures surfaced of Kirkconnell wearing an antebellum-style dress, complete with frills and a hoop skirt, at an “Old South” party hosted by the Kappa Alpha fraternity at her college in 2018. The dress and party theme appeared to honor the group of elites who brutalized enslaved Black people for over a century. Kappa Alpha was founded in Lexington, Virginia, just after the Civil War, and in 1923 officially adopted Robert E. Lee as its “spiritual founder.” These accusations are especially  shocking because Kirkconnell is a finalist on the current Bachelor season with the first Black Bachelor, Matt James.

In his interview with Lindsay, Harrison repeatedly defended not just Kirkconnell, but her actions as well. When Lindsay remarked that the pictures from the party were not a good look, Harrison replied, “Is it a good look in 2018 or is it not a good look in 2021?” Lindsay simply argued, “It’s not a good look ever.” Harrison also reasoned, “I just know that, I don’t know, 50 million people did that in 2018. That was a type of party that a lot of people went to…we are not looking under the same lens.” 

Rather than denouncing Kirkconnell’s racist actions and the actions of those who participate in similar parties, Harrison spent most of the time in the interview denouncing the “woke police” for attacking people like Kirkconnell for making “mistakes” like these. Just a day after his interview with Lindsay, Harrison utilized Instagram to apologize for his words and announce his hiatus.

After all of this, Kirkconnell apologized for her actions, taking much more accountability than Harrison assigned to her. She wrote, “At one point, I didn’t recognize how offensive and racist my actions were, but that doesn’t excuse them. My age or when it happened does not excuse anything. They are not acceptable or okay in any sense. I was ignorant, but my ignorance was racist.” 

This is a good example of how one should apologize for past mistakes. That is, just because everyone around you is doing something doesn’t mean you can be excused for doing the same. It is still racism. You should still have the courage to go against the group and instead do what is right. Ignorance is not an excuse when you have the resources to educate yourself. 

When it comes to the “cancel culture” that Harrison was referring to in his controversial interview, and now likely feels he is a victim of, I would argue that this can instead be referred to as accountability culture. It is impossible to go to a plantation party accidentally. It is also impossible to accidentally defend these actions while being interviewed by a Black woman. These reflect someone’s true feelings about a group of people, and it brings into question Harrison’s ability to host a show with people of color in the cast who were undoubtedly hurt by his words. 

As far as Kirkconnell’s racist past, she will likely be able to further apologize once she leaves the season and she is no longer sworn to secrecy by The Bachelor franchise. However, if the season ends with Kirkconnell accepting a marriage proposal from a Black man, it will likely continue this debate of whether someone who once attended a plantation themed party as a young adult can be reformed.

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